MIMMO Meets: Andy Brown (Katie's Dad!)

MIMMO Meets: Andy Brown (Katie's Dad!)

Last year, my dad, Andy Brown, wrote a book.

In the run up to the launch of his book ‘The Emotional Overdraft’ I wanted to have a chat with him about his book and his thoughts about our relationship with work and how it is changing.

He's also wrestled with his own Emotional Overdraft, which forced him to reconsider his entire career in order to spend more time doing the things that were most important to him. 

As my dad, he’s had a unique insight into the beginnings of MIMMO Studios. He has played an integral part by acting as an informal coach and sounding board.

One of our core values at MIMMO Studios is ‘slowing down’, he’s guided us to ensure our business not only works in terms of our environmental goals but works for our own personal objectives and values, too. 

The Emotional Overdraft answers the question “Is it possible to run a successful business without sacrificing your mental and physical health?”.

The 99p Kindle edition is available to buy from 11am on Monday 22nd January, and the book is available from Tuesday 23rd. 

We’ll also be hosting a workshop on 22nd March from 9-11am hosted by Andy Brown. The workshop will take around 45 minutes, with a worksheet for each attendee to complete and take away with them. The remaining 45 minutes will have time to ask questions and network. The £10 ticket price also includes your first coffee on the house.


Katie - So please, can you just quickly run through a definition of what an ‘Emotional Overdraft’ is? 

Andy - Yes. So you run up an emotional overdraft when you subsidise your business at the cost of your own mental, physical wellbeing.

Katie - I knew you'd have a spiel.

Andy - And what I mean by that is that you are making sure your business succeeds by doing stuff to make your business profitable when actually it's not really sustainable to do that, by creating stress and tension for yourself, where there could be a better way of doing it.

The point behind the book is that there are lots of drivers for an emotional overdraft, broadly 10 that we've identified, and that those things are addressable.

Katie - So it's almost like an invisible cost to the business.

Andy - Absolutely. I describe it as an invisible cost line in your profit and loss, and that's your emotional overdraft, and sometimes you can dip in there. It's good to do that because you get stuff done, but you should pay it back as quickly as you can.

Everyone's emotional overdraft is different. Our levels of resilience vary. So where do you start? So the accountants in this world go, “let's stick to the things we can measure”, but it isn't necessarily those things that are important.

You can't really measure it against other people because the measure of an emotional overdraft is your resilience, your ability to bounce back.

Katie - So it's almost like trying to measure pain, isn't it?

Andy - Exactly. And my perception of pain is very different to yours, is different to someone else's. And so it's a really good way of describing it. I'm going to nick that. 

But what you can do is you can go, “this is where it is today, as I perceive it”, because it's an intellectual thing.

So if you say there's a base of 100, which is where I recommend people start, then my suggestion is you track it for 28 days and just ask yourself did it go up or did it go down? What you might find is it goes up and down a little bit, but across a month, it goes from 100 to 109, it just means it's gone up more than it's gone down that month. 

So you should be actively thinking, well, what can I do about that? I can't sustain that, because if it goes up nine next month, that's now at 120 odd, then I'm really struggling, and something will break. 

It's a way of just quantifying it relative to itself, really. But if month after month after month, it's still going up, you've got to do something differently. That's the whole point about the book. 

Katie - Because I guess the risk is as well, if you're a small business like MIMMO Studios, our baseline, where our 100 is, might actually have shifted over the couple of years we've been in business. So we almost don't realise how in debt we are in our emotional overdraft. 

Andy - Very astute. I think it does. And you a lot of part of emotional overdraft is that kind of some of the drivers are things like expectations and duty. 

But it's not going “oh, well, then that's it then. So I'm just going to be stressed and I'm not going to have friends and I'm not going to see my family. I'm going to be divorced three times”. That's not what it means. And you can either do something about it or you can let that happen to you. You don't need that to be the case.

I'm absolutely on a mission to get this label better known and understood, because just knowing the name of it will help immediately. Knowing it's a thing, knowing that this behaviour is normal, and that everyone else does it, and that this is what we call it, will help millions of people. 

Katie - You said everyone has an emotional overdraft. Obviously, you have one as well. And in your book, you talk about particular moments that you found really difficult in your career. There's one that almost made me tear up when I was reading it. 

Andy - It's making me tear up now.

Katie - Yeah, about missing moments with me and my brother when we were younger. Do you think that was maybe a seedling of the idea of the emotional overdraft?

Andy - I think I've been aware of it. I think that's the point. This is just a label for something that everyone is aware of so that's why everyone I talk to about this or who reads the book or picks up the back of it and reads the blurb goes, “oh yeah, I get that”. 

I set up my own business and I worked from home and I picked you two up or took you to school. You know, I was around, we could play in the garden. I think I realised there was another way of doing it a long time ago.

I just hadn't codified it. I hadn't worked it out. And until I did the research, I hadn't realised that it was so universal. I spoke to 50 business owners. In depth, and every single one of them, bar none, went, “holy crap, I live with this all the time”.

Katie - And do you think there's more words, for example ‘emotional overdraft’ - to help people talk about mental health and work/life balance and all that kind of thing. Would it have worked before all that?

Andy - It's a brilliant question. No, I don't think it would have done. I definitely don’t think in the ‘90s there was the language for it. I don't think people had time for it. I think it was a fairly greedy decade. 

Even if you don't have an Emotional Overdraft or don't feel you do, those circumstances you are absolutely borrowing on someone else's emotional overdraft, your partner, your kids, your friends, you will be, it will be someone, you know, the funding comes from somewhere. 

It feeds on itself - that's the double whammy of emotional overdraft is you're not doing as well as you think you could, you're compromising, so you feel bad about that, so it just doubles up. it's a kind of multiplier thing which is horrific.

Katie - That's the interest isn't it - on the loan - the guilt on top.

Andy - Maybe that's what it is. Just another little kicker. And that's where burnout and overwhelm and stress and breakdowns and worse happens. 

Katie - You've always said to me that I'd end up working for myself and now that's become true. That encouragement gave me self-belief, I think, to be able to take that step, which is exciting. Is there any advice that you would give to a new business with your emotional overdraft definition in mind?

Andy - So, it comes back to the currency of an emotional overdraft, which is resilience, your capacity to bounce back.  

When you start a new business, generally you're very resilient. You're expecting it to be difficult. You're expecting to fail and learn new things. And it's going to be challenging. And so you calibrate around that a bit. You calibrate the expectations of people around you as well. You're starting a new business. 

When you've been running it a while, you realise that this is the long haul, and then your resilience, it doesn't actually change, you are just as resilient, but you've been in an overdraft for a long time, and that's when it starts to ebb, and lessens your ability to bounce back, and your ability to take the knocks.

So I think if I was giving advice, I'd say; pursue a sustainable business, rather than a purely profitable business.

Katie - And you mean on a personal level rather than environmentally in this case, right? 

Andy - Personally sustainable yeah. 

Katie - We've kind of taken that into account when we've been planning 2024, rather than planning an event and then being like “oh my god. My friend's wedding is that weekend, I guess I can't go”, our plans come first and the business works around it. 

Andy - Perfect, and I've seen you shut the shop for a couple of weeks in your quiet period to give yourself a chance to plan the business and make sure you're properly aligned. This is genuinely sustainable thinking.

Katie - You've witnessed Lil and I massively dip into our emotional overdrafts through the first couple of years of business in MIMMO Studios. I just wondered how you found that, or if you had any thoughts on it. I guess we're kind of coming out the other side of it now.

Andy - I don't think you're coming out of it because an emotional overdraft is always there. But I think you're coping better with it. I think you developed strategies. I think you two are much, much better at recognising when you're slipping into your emotional overdraft and talking to each other about it. And that's the key because it genuinely is possible. 

I see you and Lil, rapidly re-engineering your business and the way you work together to give you the opportunity to carry on your mission for as long as you can, because it's an important thing. What you do is important, really important, And you need to have the energy to do that. And you also need to be rewarded for it.

Katie - I think we've massively seen in retail - especially clothing brands - the need for businesses to have strong values. I think that obviously comes from the founders, and that in order to uphold those values, there's a fair amount of sacrifice that goes into that, especially when other options can be more profitable.

So, for example, we don't ship internationally because we know that there's a carbon output associated with that, and we don't want to contribute in that way. On the flip side, there's a lot of fulfilment that we get from having that agenda that helps us carry on. Is that one of your drivers? 

Andy - Well I think it's not a driver because the drivers of an emotional overdraft are the negative behaviours. I think it's when you have strong values and they are compromised by what feels like the inevitability of your behaviour, so, that's when recognising that you're not living to your own personal values or your business values drives your emotional overdraft.

The 10 behaviours are more to do with what's causing it to happen rather than where it’s coming from. I think if you're discordant, if you have clear values and they mean something to you, but you can't live to them there would be a contradiction between what you believe and what you're actually doing, that would start to cause some tension for you.

Katie - On that note, I feel like I hear it from you anecdotally about how business leaders are building their businesses more around their personal values and their personal objectives. I guess that's one change you might have seen in how businesses are run. But are there any other kinds of major shifts that you've observed in your career?

Andy - I think it's coming slowly, but I think people who run businesses now have ‘permission’ to run the businesses in the right way. Whereas before, I think it might've been measured in money, I think a lot more people now understand that success is measured in impact.

And that's particularly from an environmental point of view, but it could be social, or it could be just from any aspect, really, I think our thinking has evolved.

That's why we're seeing this change now about self-determination and more awareness of the environment. It's a nice educated middle-class point of view, but it's where the change will come from for sure.

Because it doesn't go away. Even if you're doing great stuff, important things, there are smart behaviours and there are not so smart behaviours. Being aware of those things and reducing the pressure on yourself means your business becomes more effective.


‘The Emotional Overdraft’ by Andy Brown publishes on Tuesday 23rd January 2023. 

The 99p Kindle edition is available to buy from 11am on Monday 22nd January, and the book is available from Tuesday 23rd. 

We’ll also be hosting a workshop on 22nd March from 9-11am hosted by Andy Brown. The workshop will take around 45 minutes, with a worksheet for each attendee to complete and take away with them. The remaining 45 minutes will have time to ask questions and network. The £10 ticket price also includes your first coffee on the house.